The 2nd Statistical Account

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Sir John Sinclair, Baronet of Ulbster in Caithness (Image taken from Raeburn painting) with background of west coast outline

Sir John Sinclair, Baronet of Ulbster in Caithness standing in front of map of Ross and Cromarty



The last census and those taken formerly included the inhabitants of the districts which are now connected, ‘quoad sacra, with the parishes of Carnoch and Kinlochluichart. Exclusive of these, the population at present is upwards of 2300. The increase has been, in a great measure, occasioned by the villages of Maryburgh and Keithtown, which are of recent formation, and by the heights being resorted to from remote districts lately converted into pasturage.

The population of this parish in








The number of families in the parish is


The number below 15 years of age who can read or are learning to read,

216 males,

162 females

The number below 15 years of age who can write or are learning to write,

74 males

31 females

The number above 15 years of age who cannot read either Gaelic or English


Illegitimate births in the course of the last three years


The greatest part of the parish is occupied by large farmers, who have introduced all the modern improvements in agriculture. The rest of the people consist of small tenants, crofters, a few mechanics, and the extremely poor. All belong to the Established Church, and seem to be cordially attached to it. The Gaelic is generally spoken, and is still by far the most prevalent language.

The morals of the people have, in several respects, undergone improvement. In former times, cases of theft, especially, were by no means uncommon.*

Many superstitious notions still prevail among the common people. They are firm believers in dreams and warnings-the taisq or wraith-and also in a kind of fairies or cursed spirits who resided in a small knoll directly opposite Knock- Farril; by whom children were often stolen or changed, before they were christened. Here, the old inhabitants say that, even in their day, unearthly music has been beard and unearthly lights seen ; but that the cursed spirits have been, long since, laid under a restraint which prevents them from making their appearance, or doing mischief as formerly. There is a small spring which rises in a circular hollow in a solid rock on the west side of Rhoagie, called Tobar-nadomhnuich, the water of which is believed to possess the virtue of indicating whether a sick person shall survive or not. It is taken from the spring before sunrise, and after the patient has been bathed or immersed in it, if the water appears of a pure colour, it foretells his recovery; but, if of a brown mossy colour, that he will die. About six years ago, a mother brought her sickly child a distance of thirty miles, to this spring. On approaching it, she was startled by the appearance of an animal with glaring eye-balls leaping into it. The poor mother considered this as a fatal omen. Her affection for her child, however, overcame her fear. She dislodged the animal and bathed the child, after which it slept more soundly than it had ever done before. This seemed at first to confirm the sanitory virtue of the water, but the child has since died. Within the same period, two friends of a parishioner whose life was despaired of, went to consult the spring in his behalf, and to fetch some of the water. On placing the pitcher in it, the water assumed a circular motion from south to west. They returned with joy, and informed the patient, that there was no cause to fear, as the motion of the water, being from south to west, was a sure indication that he should recover,-whereas, if it had been from north to west, he should die. The person still lives. Such are some of the superstitious notions which prevail in districts of the parish, at the present day.


Agriculture, Rent, &c.-The average rent of arable land per acre is from 15s. to L. 2 ; grazing, per ox or cow for the season, L. 2, 10s. ; range of hill for ditto, 5s. ; pasturage for a ewe or fullgrown sheep, from 1s. 6d. to 2s. Rate of wages, exclusive of board, to farm-servants, L. 7; male-labourers in summer, per diem, 1s. 6d., and in winter, 1s. ; female ditto in harvest, 1s.; and in other seasons, 6d.-Average price of grain, best quality, is, wheat per imperial quarter, L. 2, 5s., barley, L. 1, 10s., oats, L. 1, 4s., pease, L. 1, 8s.

The valued rental of the parish in Scots money is as follows:





The lands of Seaforth,





The lands of Hilton,





The lands of Tulloch,





The lands of Strathconon,





The lands of Coul,





The lands of Kilcoy,






Ecclesiastical State.-
The church of the parish was built in 1807, and is situated witbin a mile of the pump-room. It was originally intended to accommodate 400, but the heritors voluntarily agreed to enlarge it to the extent of about 200 additional sittings. This was done at considerable expense, three years ago. It is still, however, far from sufficient to supply the wants of the parish, and is very inconveniently situated for those who dwell on the south side of KnockFarril, amounting to between 800 and 900, who in winter are often prevented from attending church by the steepness of the hill, and the depth of snow which at times lies upon it. There are full services, every Lord’s day, both in Gaelic and English. There are no Dissenting or Seceding families in the parish.

The manse was built in 1794, and is in excellent repair. It is surrounded with a glebe and garden, containing upwards of ten acres, the soil of which is, upon the whole, good.
The stipend, by the last augmentation, obtained in 1824, is 16 chalders, partly money, and partly victual, exclusive of the legal allowance of L. 8, 6s. 8d. for communion elements. The Honourable Mrs Hay M’Kenzie of Cromartie is patroness.

Mr Hector M’Kenzie, the first Presbyterian minister of the parish, was inducted in 1728. He was succeeded by Mr Colin M’Kenzie in 1734, who died in 1801, at the advanced age of ninety-four years. His son, Mr Donald M’Kenzie, had been previously appointed his assistant and successor, on whose death Mr Charles Bayne was inducted in 1826, and after him the present incumbent in 1833.

There are five schools in the parish. 1. The parochial school, which has the maximum salary attached to it, exclusive of a dwelling-house,and L.2, lieu of a garden. The branches taught are, English reading, grammar,writing, arithmetic, book-keeping, geography, Latin, and Greek. The average attendance is 63, and the annual amount of school fees paid may be about L. 16. 2. The school at Tollie, in the Brahan district, in connexion with the Inverness Education Society. The attendance is 70. Both Gaelic and English are taught, together with writing and arithmetic. 3. The Gaelic school, supported by that excellent institution, the Gaelic School Society of Edinburgh, in which, old and young are taught to read the sacred Scriptures in their own language, and which is attended during winter by about 60. 4. The school at Maryburgb, on the scheme of the General Assembly’s Education Committee. The average attendance is 120. And, lastly, a school on the teacher’s own adventure, in the heights of Auchterneed ; at which the attendance is 84.

There are 96 on the poor’s roll, who receive aid annually, besides 20 others, who are assisted occasionally. The funds are, 1. The collections at church, averaging during the last five years L.30, 7s. 1d. Sterling, from which, however, the fees of sessionclerk, precentor, beadle, and catechist are to be deducted. 2. A mortification in perpetuo, by George Earl of Cromartie of 12 bolls of barley per annum, bearing date 18th September 1686, and restricted ” for the help, sustenance, and entertainment of the poor and indigent living on the lands of Park, Ardvall, Kinettas, Ulladale, Castle Leod, Auchterneed, Inchreundie, Glenskyth, Garbet, and Bay of Dingwall, Strathpeffer, Inchrory, Dochnaclear, Fodderty, Balmulich, Milnain, but with preference still to decayed tenants, and their wives when widows.” 3. A legacy of L. 80, left by Mrs Morrison, daughter of Mr Angus Morrison, the last Episcopal minister of Coutin, who was ejected for non-conformity, and resided afterwards in this parish till the time of his death. By additions made to it, the legacy was increased to upwards of L. 200, and invested in the property of Hilton at 5 per cent. per annum; but the interest has not been available for the last few years.

*One man, it is said, had become so notorious for this crime that, whenever a sheep was missed, he was sure to be suspected of having stolen it. lt happened on one occasion that the theft was discovered before he could dispose of the sheep. Perceiving this, he, on entering his hut, sent his wife and child out of the way, cut the throat of the sheep, placed it in the child’s cradle, which he covered with a cloth, and sat down to rock it. Scarcely had he done so when the party in search of the sheep entered and found him seemingly in a great passion at his wife’s having left him to act the part of a nurse in rocking the cradle. He was asked if he knew any thing of a sheep which has just been missed? Do you suspect me, says he “Scho luath churrin sgian ans na tha’s a chreal’s a ghaoidin a chaora,” i. e. “I would as soon stick a knife in what is in the cradle as steal the sheep.” The party, after a fruitless serch, retired without once suspecting it was not the child he was rocking in the cradle.

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